Big Money Mailers
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (Kennie Bass) -- It is a perk of being a lawmaker: Taxpayer-funded letters to the people you serve, with information on bills and other work accomplished during the legislative session.However, some are criticizing the practice, especially during this election year. Mailings from the House of Delegates have increased exponentially, and you are picking up the tab for postage.Eyewitness News looked at the number of letters sent out by House members from two time periods, November 2012 to April 2013 and November 2013 to last month.What we found was startling. In the earlier period, which preceded a non-election year, the entire House spent $3,600 on mail. But in the five months preceding next week`s primary, House spending on mail totals $15,000, and rising. Many lawmakers have upped their mailings considerably from year to year, particularly House Democrats, many of whom are expected to have tough primary or general election battles."Well, it`s very blatant illegal campaigning on taxpayer dollars," Conrad Lucas, the chairman of the West Virginia GOP, said. "There`s no other way to look at it. When you see the comparison of what happens in an election year, versus a non-election year, this isn`t by accident. And particularly the Democrats in that situation who are committing the most egregious offenses are the ones who are the most in trouble."Here are the eight local delegates creating the biggest postal costs, and they`re all from the majority party"Delegate Rick Moye of Raleigh leads the way. His total jumped more than 17 times from $210 a year ago, to nearly $3600 this year. Moye contacted Eyewitness News and said his constituents certainly would not consider those mailings to be wasteful.Cabell County Delegate Jim Morgan is next on the list. Morgan went from $22 a year ago to $3100 this year.Morgan was aked if he could address why there`s been a spike of more than four times in mailings from the House."I think primarily, leadership suggested strongly in the democratic caucus that a mailing was a good way to get information out to your constituents, all of them," Morgan said. "And I think many of us took advantage of something we hadn`t taken advantage of before."The pattern is similar with the other big spenders, who all show massive increases from their non-election year mailings to this year.Mingo County democrat Justin Marcum went from $161 to $2700.Clay County Democrat David Walker`s mailings totaled $9.52 a year ago. Prior to next week`s primary, he`s spent $24200 in taxpayer money.Kanawha County Delegate Nancy Guthrie`s spending went from 90 cents to $1,200.Lincoln County`s Jeff Eldridge spent $86 a year ago. He`s also spent $1,200 from last November to April.Cabell County`s Dale Stephens mail spending increased from $104 to $1,186.And Wayne`s Don Perdue went from $53 to more than $1,000.Republican leaders are saying that this is electioneering plain and simple."I think you can make that argument, but I don`t agree to it and I`ll tell you why," Perdue said. "My argument is, for me, not for anyone else, for me, is that it`s a communication tool that I had not used and I used it this year. I will use it in the future probably in the form of those legislative updates. Mailings in general I think serve a useful purpose. I think that probably if you looked around the nation you`d find at the congressional level, at every level, that the mailings do tend to go up in election years and I`m not going to speak to anyone`s motives on that."Democratic delegates have sent out tens of thousands of letters in the first four months of this year, detailing their legislative accomplishments, and you are buying the stamps.Eyewitness News contacted and left messages with every one of the delegates mentioned in this story by both telephone and email. Only Delegates Morgan, Moye and Perdue returned our messages.We did not hear from Delegates Marcum, Walker, Guthrie, Eldridge and Stephens about the massive increases in their legislative mailings and postage costs. Political observers said every one of those politicians faces a difficult primary or general election battle.